Your Next TV Will Likely Be a Smart TV

A few months ago people were debating whether or not to buy a Smart TV but CES 2013 showed that most new TVs will have streaming capacities in one way or another. TVs that didn't have their own Smart TV platforms will have built-in Google TV features or will be Roku Ready. It seems that Smart TVs have become the norm. And, like it or not, TVs are turning into Smart TVs in the same way that cell phones transitioned to smartphones over the last five years. From low-end brands and TV models to the top-of-the-line, most TVs will include a built-in Web browser and be able to stream video and access lifestyle apps.

Smart TVs from Samsung, LG, and Panasonic no longer require a button-push to access apps—Smart TV hubs are now front and center. That is, when you turn on your TV, you see a home screen. From there, you can choose to watch video from your Blu-ray or other connected component, or access TV programming from a screen that is integrated with your cable, satellite, or telco. Once the TV has followed your viewing habits, or after you rate a number of movies, you will see a grid of recommended movies and TV shows without having to turn on a channel guide. Moving beyond entertainment, home screens also provide access to a Web browser, weather, even your personal calendar—evidence that the big screen is becoming the center of our home life and not just the center of our home theater.

Google TV is showing up in a number of 2013 TVs. Vizio, LG, and HiSense are expanding the number of models that will include Google TV fuctionality. In addition to the expanding number of Google TV apps, each manufacturer has added a few of its own apps for streaming home media as well as other apps. The addition of voice search brings Google TV closer to its promise of finding a TV show or movie on live TV, websites, streaming media sites or your home network. While you still can't search a DVR, that feature should be coming sometime this year. Vizio and LG demonstrated the voice search feature by describing a movie rather than searching for a movie title or actor. For example, the search phrase "a movie about Wizards" turned up The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Harry Potter.

Budget TVs may not have the Smart TV features built-in. However, many models from Insignia (Best Buy's brand), Westinghouse Digital, and Hisense are billed as Roku Ready. The Roku Ready feature enables the TV's remote to control the Roku stick, which looks like a USB flash drive and brings the Smart TV experience to a TV when it's plugged into an MHL-enabled HDMI port on the set.

One compelling feature of Google TV and Roku Ready TVs is that they can be easily updated: Google TV through firmware updates and Roku via a new stick. Samsung also recognizes that a built-in Smart TV platform is impractical for TVs. Unlike a smartphone that consumers will upgrade every couple of years, most people see their television as long-term investment. This is the rationale behind the Samsung Smart TV Evolution kit, which when connected to compatible TVs allows hardware and software to be updated every year.

It is no longer a question of whether you want to buy a Smart TV, it is now a question of how you want to interact with it, and whether you want a system that can be upgraded each year as new features become available and interactivity improves. While most of us still choose a TV based on picture and sound performance, Smart TV options will increasingly become part of the buying decision.

To learn more about the latest Smart TV features, check out our CES 2013 coverage on Google TV, Samsung Smart TV Evolution Kit, Roku Ready TVs, and Smart TV home screens.

abourelle's picture

I just purchased a Samsung Smart Plasma and never thought i would use the Smart feature as much as i am. Allshare lets you connect with your computer or NAS drive. I have a lot of pictures,movies and music now easily available. Web browsing is a bit tedious with the remote alone so i will get a wireless keyboard. So many things to do, not enough time. Get one, you will like it too.

Barb Gonzalez's picture
Samsung has great remote control apps for both iPhone/iPad and Android. The apps are free and you can use that keyboard. Makes life much easier!
stymie222's picture

Would like to see a keyboard input or wireless keyboard interface, to replace those archaic "search" menus, like the one's for YouTube, that take forever to use.

Pete J's picture

The problem with smart tv is the same problem with every other high cost tech appliance - the average consumer isn't a video technician and can't make sense of the technical jargon that populates every smart TV sales page. I consider myself pretty tech savy, but when I was trying to do research for myself it quickly became an intensive and confusing process. This is part of the reason I created my website to help others practically compare one product to another.

For example, if all you are about is an awesome picture with basic smart tv capabilities, a panasonic s60 is a great choice as it will be 1/2 to 1/3 the price to similar quality flagship smart tvs that have all the bells as whistles that some people don't want or need.

On the other hand, if you care more about having all of the cool features like voice recognition, social sharing, and a recommendation engine, a samsung 8000 or 8500 would be better. I ended up getting a p60st60 from panasonic and it's working out well. Awesome picture at a pretty good price.